Crime: ‘Prime Suspect’ author delivers her most complete offering yet

Lynda La Plante’s ‘Twisted’ delves into the damaged mind of a killer who is as much a victim of circumstance as those murdered

‘Prime Suspect’ author Lynda La Plante. Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/GC Images

‘Prime Suspect’ author Lynda La Plante. Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/GC Images

Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 11:05

Best known, perhaps, as the writer of the TV series Prime Suspect, Lynda La Plante has published over 30 novels. Twisted (Simon & Schuster,€27.50) is probably her most complete offering to date.

Ostensibly a police procedural, it opens with Lena and Marcus Fulford in the early stages of what promises to be a very messy divorce. Distracted by their bickering, neither parent notices when their only daughter, Amy, fails to appear home from boarding school for the weekend.

When the alarm is finally raised, DI Reid of the Richmond Missing Persons Unit discovers some disturbing entries in Amy’s private journal.

As the search for Amy criss-crosses London, and friends of Lena and Marcus begin to die, DI Reid isn’t entirely sure if he’s trying to find a victim or hunting a killer. Told in a straightforward and unadorned style, the story drives relentlessly forward as it implicates a number of characters in Amy’s disappearance, broadening out from its police procedural origins to incorporate a fascinating psychological investigation into the damaged mind of a killer who is as much a victim of circumstance as those murdered.

Compassion appears to be La Plante’s watchword here, as she contrives a series of revelations designed to force even the most seasoned of crime fiction readers to reappraise their expectations. Some of the revelations are a little more contrived than others, it’s true, but what’s most impressive about Twisted is La Plante’s treatment of the missing Amy.

In less experienced hands, the “wandering daughter” angle would serve as little more than an introductory hook to hang an investigation on. Absent though she might be for most of the story, Amy nevertheless becomes a more absorbing, poignant and complex character the further DI Reid’s investigation progresses.

The Final Silence (Harvill Secker, €14.99) is Stuart Neville’s fifth novel, and the third to feature DI Jack Lennon of the PSNI as its central character. The story opens with Rea Carlisle, an old flame of Lennon, clearing out the house of her recently deceased uncle, Raymond. When Rea discovers evidence of horrific murders, she contacts Lennon, unaware that he is currently suspended from duty and that her discovery, and her instinct to publicise it, has marked her out as problem to be disposed of.

Neville’s most recent novel, Ratlines (2013), was set in the 1960s, but otherwise his novels tend to revolve around contemporary crimes that have their roots buried deep in Northern Ireland’s Troubles. The Final Silence is no exception, its succinct and pacy storytelling stretched taut across a morass of unresolved tensions and motives for murder that don’t necessarily fit the prevailing post-peace process narrative.

Indeed, Lennon could well serve as a poster boy for conflict resolution, a deeply flawed man who has in the past been his own worst enemy and is now battered and scarred, physically and emotionally, as he pursues truth and justice by any means necessary.

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